Charles A. Smith papers: 1926-1958 (bulk 1926-1934)
Summary Information
Title: Charles A. Smith papers
Creator: Smith, Charles A. (Charles Abram)
Inclusive dates: 1926-1958
Bulk dates: 1926-1934
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
Smith was a Detroit, Mich. Jewish dentist, philanthropist, and Freemason who was involved with and supported the state Republican Party. He served as a Chairman of the Wayne County Delegation to the Republican Progressive League in 1928-1929 and served as a Wayne County Chief Deputy Clerk in the 1930s. Smith advised and corresponded with many Michigan Republican politicians, among them Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and Michigan governor Fred W. Green, as well as judges, attorneys, physicians, and business people. The collection includes correspondence with Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Governor Fred W. Green, politicians Howard C. Lawrence and Seth Q. Pulver, Judge Charles Rubiner, among others, on various political topics and current political events. The collection also includes Smith's personal and business correspondence. Also materials relating to Smith's philanthropic and advocacy work for the Jewish community.
Call number: 2017052 Aa 2
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid created by Olga Virakhovskaya, November 2017.

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Diane Goldenring (donor no. 11279) in June 2015.

Access Restrictions:

This collection is open without restriction.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, Charles A. Smith papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


The collection is arranged into two series: 1. Personal Papers. 2. Political Papers.


Charles Abram Smith was born in England circa 1883. He grew up in a Jewish orphanage in Ohio, most likely the Jewish Orphan Asylum in Cleveland. In his adult years Smith practiced dentistry in Detroit. At some point in his life he was initiated into Freemasonry.

Smith was an influential figure within the Michigan Republican Party. Formally, he did not occupy central positions in the Party. In 1928-1929, he served as a Chair of Wayne County Republican Progressive League Committee on Election of Delegates, then in the mid-1940s he served as a Wayne County Chief Deputy Clerk. However, he advised many influential politicians, judges, lawyers, and business people in the state. In these circles, Smith was known as "Doc." As the contents of the collection attest, a number of prominent public officials sought Smith's support and relied on his advice and guidance. Smith's regular correspondents included Michigan Governor Fred W. Green, Green's Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party Howard C. Lawrence, among others. Smith was especially close with U.S. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg. Letters found in the collection reflect on a warm and respectful relationship between the two men.

Smith was involved in many philanthropic causes. He supported the Boy's Welfare Department of Jewish Social Services of Detroit, Jewish Orphan Home of Cleveland, Ohio (also known as the Jewish Orphan Asylum and later renamed the Bellefaire Jewish Orphan Home). Smith took personal interest in individuals. His papers contain files with correspondence regarding children and their progress at the orphanage. Another example is Smith's involvement in trying to obtain executive clemency for two Michigan men convicted for murder in the first degree.

Smith moved to California toward the end of his life.

Collection Scope and Content Note

Correspondence constitutes the bulk of the materials. Letters written to Smith reflect on his political alliances, his role as a supporter and advisor to Michigan public officials, lawyers, judges, business people, as well as Smith's colleagues in the medical field. The collection includes numerous thank you letters and letters asking for his assistance in difficult situations concerning other people's careers. Also of note are two folders with correspondence relating to clemency appeal for two Michigan men convicted for murder in the first degree. The collection also contains materials related to Smith's business activities as well as his affiliation with the Freemasons. A small group of documents relates to Smith's brother Jacob.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Freemasons -- Michigan.
  • Jewish dentists -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Jewish orphanages -- Ohio.
  • Judges -- Michigan.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 1922-1928.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 1929-1938.
  • Politicians -- Michigan.
  • Prisoners -- Michigan.
  • Photographs.
  • Jewish judges -- Michigan.
  • Bellefaire Jewish Children's Home (Shaker Heights, Ohio)
  • Corman, Nathan.
  • Gilinski, David.
  • Green, Fred W. (Fred Warren), 1872-1936.
  • Jewish Orphan Asylum (Shaker Heights, Ohio)
  • Lawrence, Howard Cyrus, 1890-1961.
  • Republican Party (Mich.)
  • Rubiner, Charles.
  • Smith, Charles A. (Charles Abram)
  • Vandenberg, Arthur H. (Arthur Hendrick), 1884-1951.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Personal Papers 1923-1958, 1926-1932 [series]

The Personal Papers series (0.1 linear feet) includes letters from Smith's business partners and professional colleagues, materials relating to Smith's philanthropic activities, a small number of materials relating to his activities as a Freemason, a folder with documents relating to his brother Jacob Smith, and an undated photo of Charles Smith.

Of note are materials concerning children within the Detroit Jewish Social Services Bureau system and especially concerning the Jewish Orphan Home in Cleveland, Ohio. Also of interest are two folders with letters on the subject of clemency for two Michigan men who have been convicted for first degree murder, Nathan Corman and David "Dave" Gilinski. These files contain letters from the Jackson State Prison Warden, attorneys, letters addressed to Governor Green, as well as letters from the prisoners and their family members.

Advocacy and philanthropy
Box   1  
Corman, Nathan 1929
Box   1  
Gilinski, David 1927-1929
Box   1  
Jewish community 1926-1929, 1945
Box   1  
Jewish Orphan Home 1927-1933
Box   1  
Correspondence 1926-1932, 1943, 1958
Box   1  
Freemasonry 1923-1954 (scattered years)
Box   1  
Metropolitan Trust Company 1931-1932
Box   1  
Photograph undated
Box   1  
Smith, Jacob 1930
Box   1  
Miscellaneous 1923-1942 (scattered dates)
Political Papers 1923-1950, 1926-1946 [series]

The Political Papers series (0.4 linear feet) is arranged in three sub-series: Activities, Correspondence, and Vandenberg, Arthur H.

The Activities sub-series contains letters received during Smith's tenure at the Republican Progressive League, as well as a small collection of newspaper clippings documenting his political activities.

The Correspondence sub-series includes letters received from Michigan political and public figures, including Michigan Governor Fred W. Green, Green's Executive Secretary Howard C. Lawrence, Michigan State Senator Seth Q. Pulver, Judge Charles Rubiner, among others. The General Correspondence folder contains a great number of thank you letters from different individuals, written in appreciation for Smith's support during various elections and nominations.

Of special interest is the Arthur H. Vandenberg sub-series. The sub-series include six folders containing letters from the Senator. In his letters, Vandenberg candidly shares with Smith his opinions about current political events. The sub-series includes Vandenberg's photograph signed by the Senator and bearing a warm inscription addressed to Smith. Also included several issues of the "Congressional Record" with Vandemberg's speeches.

Activities [subseries]
Box   1  
Newspaper clippings 1927-1947 (scattered years), undated
Box   1  
Republican Progressive League 1928-1929
Correspondence [subseries]
Box   1  
General 1926-1947
Box   1  
Green, Fred W. 1926-1934, 1947
Box   1  
Lawrence, Howard C. 1926-1940, 1926-1929 (2 folders)
Box   1  
Murphy, Frank 1931
Box   1  
Pulver, Seth Q. 1926, 1928
Box   1  
Rubiner, Charles 1928-1929, 1943
Arthur H. Vandenberg [subseries]
Box   1  
Correspondence 1927-1950 (with gaps), 1928-1946 (6 folders)
Box   1  
Photograph undated

(Inscribed to Dr. Chaprles Smith and signed by Vandenberg.)

Box   1  
Speeches, collected 1929-1943 (scattered years)
Additional Descriptive Data
Related Materials

The Bentley Historical Library houses the following related collections: Arthur Hendrick Vandenberg papers, 1884-1974 (bulk 1915-1951) and Fred Warren Green papers, 1881-1939.